11-24-12 UPDATE:Podcast Update: Time to Read Episode 75: Charles Burns, 'The Hive' and Chris Ware 'Building Stories'
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Here's the seventy-fifth episode of my new series of podcasts, which I'm calling Time to Read. Hitting the one-year mark, I'm going to make an effort to get ahead, so that podcast listeners can get the same sort of "sneak preview" effect that radio listeners get each Friday morning. And yes, I know this means I have one more to go this week — and here it is!
11-21-12:Tad Williams Reads at SF in SF on October 15, 2012
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"...he is in Hell, he's wearing a demonic body..."
Ah, the monsters. Tad Williams clearly loves them as much as I do, because he does one hell of a good job at whipping them up in 'The Dirty Streets of Heaven.' The trend continues in the sequel, 'Happy Hour in Hell,' which finds Bobby Dollar, aka the Angel Doloriel in, not surprisingly, Hell.
If Bobby Dollar is not having fun, then readers certainly will. And you can hear how much fun you'll have when you hear the relish in Tad Williams' voice as he reads from 'Happy Hour in Hell.'
Williams has always been an accomplished writer, but in 'The Dirty Streets of Heaven' our favorite accomplished writer decided to give himself a break and just have fun. At the SF in SF event for LitQuake, Williams read with so much gust and so well, it was almost like he was auditioning to do the audiobook. To be honest, I don't think anyone could do the voices of the voices of the monsters with the particular relish that he brings to his performance.
Williams has a background in radio, music and performance, and hearing this reading it's possible to wonder how much of a feedback loop goes into the creation of the books in the first place. I can see in my mind's eye, Williams at his keyboard, cackling with delight as he writes the dialogue we hear in one portion of the reading. And this is why it is worth readers' valuable time to go see authors live; hearing a voice gives readers a great clue as to how that voice gets set down on paper.
Williams reads extensively from this forthcoming new book, and the textures we encounter here are really quite interesting. On one hand, Williams is writing with a classic wisecracking noir detective voice, and that is clearly part of the fun he is having. But that voice is aimed at, well, Hell, and Hell proves to be A) Lovecratian in the sense of "so horrific as to barely be comprehensible by tiny Angelic minds," and B) monsterific. Of course Williams, being a superb monster hound, has lots of fun here as well, in a very different sense. There's a bit of a clash and the sense of a synthesis as Bobby Dollar encounters some truly grotesque critters. And they're not just mindless eating machines, but criminal non-masterminds full of unjustified self-importance.
By the time I was heading to Bookshop Santa Cruz to talk with Craig Childs about his new book 'Apocalyptic Planet,' I was pretty sure I had experienced an interviewer's apocalypse, having conducted four interviews in three days. To be honest, I sort of figured if this one didn't work out, well, at least I tried and I could go in there and make the effort.
But when I met Craig Childs downstairs in Bookshop Santa Cruz we simply hit it off perfectly well. We had plenty of time, and nobody seemed to care much what was going on, so we popped upstairs to the Manager's Office and before we knew it, an hour had whizzed by without either of us really being aware of it. It was a case of two guys having way too much fun talking about the end of the world.
It wasn't just Childs' exceptional writing and subject matter, though. Sometimes as an interviewer, you just find yourself "in the pocket," and there I was, talking to Childs with an unexpected ease. For reasons that were unclear, I felt totally unfazed asking him challenging questions; for example, was he really quite so discombobulated as he makes it appear in the book. And happily, the answer was yes.
Childs' book is an utterly unique, smashingly well-written piece of travel literature. He goes places without much of a plan, wanders about, occasionally shedding bits of clothing as required, horsing around with a movie crew as they engage in naughty-workplace shenanigans amidst the cracking explosion of glacial ice, calling up experts who describe "desertification" in absolutely mortifying terms.